Scandal-Plagued Texas Dem Received Donation From Family Tied to the ‘Most Dangerous Cartel Operating in Mexico’

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Getty Images)
November 2, 2022

Democratic Texas congressman Henry Cuellar and his brother, a Texas sheriff, received thousands of dollars from a family with close ties to Mexico's "notoriously brutal" Los Zetas cartel, National Review reported Monday.

Cuellar, who is facing a tough reelection race this year, in 2006 received $1,000 from the then-wife of Antonio Peña Arguelles, a money launderer for Los Zetas, which U.S. officials have called "the most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico." Peña Arguelles, who in 2014 was sentenced to more than two years in U.S. federal prison, himself donated $1,500 to Cuellar’s brother, Webb County sheriff Martin Cuellar (D.).

While the San Antonio Express-News at the time reported on the donations, the story "never garnered national attention and largely disappeared" after Henry Cuellar reportedly gave the money to charity, National Review noted.

The National Review report comes as the United States faces an unprecedented migrant crisis, with two million illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since last October. The Biden administration has faced widespread criticism, including from Cuellar, for its handling of the crisis.

It also comes as Cuellar faces corruption allegations, with the FBI in January raiding his home and campaign office. The multiple scandals have added up to the congressman's toughest reelection fight since he first took office in 2005.

"Cuellar's strange donation link to an alleged conduit for one of the largest and most violent cartels in the region could be a liability," National Review noted:

Cartels leave a heavy footprint in the Rio Grande Valley, and a large segment of the region's economy is linked to Border Patrol jobs. Notably, the National Border Patrol Council—the labor union representing some 18,000 Border Patrol agents—opted to endorse Cuellar's Republican challenger, Cassy Garcia, over the Democratic incumbent this year, despite having routinely endorsed Cuellar in past elections.

Cuellar's campaign told National Review after publication that "resurfacing this 10-year-old story is a blatant smear attempt" and insisted that Cuellar "had no knowledge" of the Peña Arguelles family's background.